Meet volunteer Sarah Siaf, a freshman at Virginia Commonwealth University and a member of the Honors College. Sarah is originally from Ashburn, VA on the Potomac River but the beauty and atmosphere surrounding the James River makes her wish she was a James River native! When she’s not in class or studying, she can be found enjoying her day writing, reading and listening to music. She is studying psychology in hopes of becoming an Industrial/Organizational psychologist, a career in which psychological principles are applied to businesses and organizations to help improve conditions in the lives of individual employees and the workplace as a whole. In addition, she dreams of being a published author one day! Her goal is to write a novel inspired by her personal experiences and challenges, including volunteering with the James River Association and cleaning up in the James River Park System.
Here’s what Sarah has to say about her experience volunteering:
Last weekend was one of the few dozen times I was down by the river, but instead of trotting through the trails with friends or sunbathing on the rocks like usual, I was wearing thick blue gloves with a wad of trash bags stuffed in my jacket pocket. When I first called in to volunteer for the James River Association as my own way of helping to preserve my community, I had no idea where to go to start picking up trash.
For some reason I was under the misconception that there was generally not much trash polluting the James, yet the slight ache in my back and soreness in my muscles from last weekend teaches me that there is room to look closer and notice my surroundings. I went from anticipating boredom to being overwhelmed by the trash bags I had to haul around amidst free-roaming kids and muddy dogs. This experience is something I’ll always remember now when I hike over to the James because I feel like I’ve truly put my foot in the door of joining this wonderful community. Helping to clean up the James is a huge task, but one that pays off in knowing that you have something truly valuable to offer in such a large and diverse town.
Richmond is an amazing place, but it doesn’t get to be like that overnight. There is still much improvement to be made, and while town meetings and forums may be great ways for people to have their voices heard, I think the best way to manifest your potential to be a member of the community is by being proactive. I encourage everybody to volunteer for the James River Association or another organization whose mission they feel is important if they’ve ever been frustrated with an issue they’ve been unfairly excluded from voicing their opinion about.